The holidays are just around the corner. For many, this time of year is very stressful! We try to meet other's expectations and follow traditions that have been in place for years. Somewhere a long the way, the true meaning for us is lost. The activities associated with the holidays become drudgery instead of joyful. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, follow the steps below to a simplified and more peaceful holiday season.
1. Determine what you want your holiday season to look like. How do you want to feel when you think about the holidays? The key to this is to put it on paper. Write down the vision and the tasks needed to achieve this goal. Place this paper where you can see it frequently. This will be your road map for the rest of the holiday season.
2. Enter the above tasks on the calendar. Shopping, sending cards, decorating and parties should be added to the calendar too.
3. Determine menus now. Use tried and true recipes that have become a tradition for your family. Prepare what you can ahead of time.
4. Seek assistance. A decorator, caterer, house cleaner or a professional organizer can help with the tasks that you don't like to do or that are over-whelming.
5. Create a holiday binder so you can record recipes, gift ideas, Christmas card lists and party plans. You'll be so glad you went to this extra effort next year.
6. Give non-clutter gifts such as movie passes, gift cards, savings bonds, spa treatments or make a donation in the recipient's name.
7. Limit shopping to two or three trips preferably before December 15th. Avoid crowds by shopping on weekday mornings.
8. Do not feel pressured into sending a holiday card complete with family newsletter and a perfect photo. This may take hours to complete.
9. Use only red, white and gold wrapping paper that you can use all year round. Don't be tempted to purchase gift wrap at the end of the season just because it's on sale.
10. Donate decorations that you did not use the past year. This will free up space in your storage area and make decorating flow more smoothly next year.
Please share your tips for simplifying the holidays. Leave your comments below.
1. The first step to organizing your holidays is to compose a mission statement or an inspiration statement that summarizes your vision of the holidays. This will help you stay focused on what is most important to you throughout the holiday season. You may want to post it in an obvious place in your home as a frequent reminder. Throughout the holidays, do only those things that fit your statement and your vision.
2. Decor - Decide now how long you want to spend on decorating your home inside and out. Don’t let the amount of decorations you own dictate how long it takes you. Take control of your time. Determine how much time you realistically have and how much time you want to spend. If you enjoy decorating, then you may want to spend more time. Do you want to spend two hours or 10? Do you want to spread the process out over a period of days? Whatever you decide, put this on the calendar now and stick with it. Don’t fret over the decorations that don’t get displayed and consider donating them.
3. Budget - Look at your finances now and decide how much you want to spend on gifts, entertaining, decorations, party clothes, etc. Using the same concept as above, take control of your money. Don’t let guilt and expectations determine how much you spend. Over-spending will create stress well beyond the holidays. Consider gifts that don’t cause clutter for recipients such as savings bonds, gift certificates for a pedicure/manicure, movie theater gift cards or homemade treats.
4. Shopping - Limit your shopping expeditions to THREE! Put these dates on the calendar. This will help you avoid the crowds and the frantic, last minute shopping. Knowing that you have limited shopping time may keep you from endlessly looking for that “perfect” gift. Having a deadline is a good way to get anything done so have your shopping completed by December 15th.
5. Plan your menu - Cook ahead and freeze what you can. Cookie dough, cheese balls, appetizers and egg casseroles, just to name a few, can be prepared and frozen. I was surprised how many websites I found dedicated to “Holiday Freezer Meals”. Even if you enjoy cooking, having part of it complete can really ease stress. Each week prepare one dish to be frozen. Add the ingredients to your weekly grocery shopping list and schedule a portion of time in the kitchen to prepare it. Instead of being in the kitchen all day cooking, you’ll be enjoying time with friends and family!
Throughout the month of February, I concentrated on organizing the kitchen. Knowing where everything is and knowing what you have will make meal planning a simpler process. Getting into the habit of planning your meals weekly or monthly will save you time and energy. You will find yourself not having to think about or stressing over "What's for dinner?"
Planning your meals will save you time and money. Your family will enjoy healthier meals with less stress. You will find yourself spending less time and money at the grocery store.
Things to consider as you plan your menu:
1) Look at the calendar and determine what the schedule will be for each evening. If you won't be available to cook, a crock pot meal may be a good option for that night.
2) Look in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. See what ingredients you have that need to used. Challenge yourself to make a meal with you've got on hand. You may come up with a new recipe that your family loves!
3) Planned leftovers- Plan to use leftover roast chicken in soup. Use leftover chili as a pasta topper.
4) Cook in bulk- Cook a large package of ground beef and freeze for tacos, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, etc. This saves cleaning up those greasy skillets each time you prepare hamburger. You can do the same things with chicken- cook, shred and it's ready for casseroles. Instead of just cooking one casserole, buy double ingredients and put together another one for the freezer.
5) Have "theme nights" such as Taco Tuesday, Pasta on Thursday, Friday night Pizza night.
There are many options for recording your menu plan. If you prefer to keep your menu plan digitally, you can choose one of the many menu planning computer programs available. You may want to be sure it syncs with your smart phone so that you can access it as you are shopping for groceries. If you prefer paper, you can search "menu planner" and find numerous menu plan templates that you can copy. Another great option is to put your planned meals on the calendar whether it's paper or digital. Whatever method you choose,
I would love to hear from you. Do you plan your meals? If so, what tips do you have to share with the rest of us?